You may have forgotten that just before the protests started in New York City, Bobby Catone of Sunbelievable Tanning Salon attempted to open his small business. He declared that “All Businesses Are Essential,” and asked what is it that makes one business essential and another business not?
Why are New Yorkers allowed to go to the Home Depot, but they can’t go for tanning (which is a form of health care as UV light kills germs and promotes Vitamin D formation), or to a Salt Cave (which has been shown to help with asthma), or for a haircut or a facial (to help you look good and feel your best).
In the interview, the day after he tried to reopen his tanning salon, he questions what it is that makes a business essential or non-essential, and how New York City makes that determination. At his reopening, there were many other small business owners and individuals supporting his decision to open.
On Thursday, May 28th, at 11am, Bobby Catone reopened his business. He was immediately served with a $1,000 summons, which he promptly ripped up. He was then threatened with arrest, which was a risk he had known was possible, and he was willing to accept that. Finally, however, the mayor’s office contacted the police chief, who relayed the message to Bobby that he would lose his health department license indefinitely.
It was this threat that forced him to shut down again, as it would be very difficult, if not impossible, for him to ever reopen in this instance. As Bobby said, it was definitely a strong arm move, similar in spirit to what the health department of Belmawr, New Jersey, did to Atilis Gym, where they broke into the gym and changed the locks from the inside after that owner had defied regulations and opened for three days in a row.
As Bobby states in his interview, he did not do this for himself, and he did not do it necessarily to make money, as he had booked less than a quarter of the regular client load for the day. He did it to make a statement that small businesses cannot stay closed indefinitely, and that it is important for New York to provide a definite date, instead of constantly moving the goal posts. If people are afraid of the virus, they should stay home. For those who are not afraid, they should be allowed to live their normal lives again.
Bobby posted on Facebook yesterday the following informative post: “Corona for dummies:
If you test 100 people for corona and 3 come up positive and then you test 1000 people and 30 come up positive that’s the SAME EXACT RATIO. So of course there are more cases because there is MUCH MORE TESTING. Dont let them fool you with numbers. Its deaths that are important and unfortunately with a virus there will always be deaths.”
As we have stated in a previous article, the purpose of the testing is not for raw numbers, but it is for an extrapolation, so that we can know what number of people approximately have already had the virus. In New York City, at one point, 47.5% of people tested positive. When you extrapolate that number to the general population, it makes the death rate percentage much, much lower, more like a bad flu. It is unfortunate that people have died, and will continue to die, but over 60,000 people die from the flu each and every year, and some years it is many more than that. Life does not stop for the flu.
Bobby Catone believes that small businesses should be trusted by New York to reopen safely, and with multiple health and sanitation precautions, just as he did. Masks, social distancing, extra sanitization, and other practices had been put in place in the tanning salon with the safety and health of his customers in mind. If it was enough for Home Depot, Target, Lowes, and others, it could easily be enough for small businesses, too.
Bobby Catone: Hello
Staten Islander Interviewer: Hi, can I speak with Bobby Catone, please.
Bobby Catone: This is he.
Staten Islander Interviewer: Hi Bobby. I’m calling from StatenIslander.org, we’re the Staten Island news service. We’re actually writing an article about small businesses opening on Staten Island, including yours, which you tried to open. I believe it was yesterday and I wanted to see if you had any statement that you would like to make.
Bobby Catone: A statement in reference to…
Staten Islander Interviewer: In reference to everything that happened. That was yesterday, right? That you guys tried to open up. You had the rally outside.
Bobby Catone: Basically, what it comes down to is what makes a business essential and not essential? Why is a big box store able to be open or a liquor store or pastry shops or your local truck that comes around and gives ice cream to kids are able to be operational and other businesses are not. My point is they think small businesses are not smart, or are they insulting us, to not be able to open in the proper manner like anyone else’s.
Most small businesses don’t have 100, 200 or 300 people shopping at a time, like the big box stores, and waiting in line to get in there. So something doesn’t make any sense. We were told to slow the curve, so that we didn’t overwhelm the health care system, and some people passed away unfortunately. But we flattened the curve, that was what we were told.
So since then it’s been an ongoing thing as they’ve been pushing back the goalpost more & more & more. When is it okay to open? Actually, Staten Island actually pretty much got rid of the curve, there isn’t much going on here any longer. I’m sure there’s hot spots some where, I don’t know where, but most of the country’s open. My sister lives in a state where they’re having pool parties and bars. I know New York is a little different, but people are leaving.
My sister lives in South Carolina. She says, the beaches are packed here, it feels like it’s a holiday weekend because everybody left New York to come stay here. I said, why stay in New York? She says the kids are going to stay in school on a virtual computer, do it down there.
So anyway, the big fight is what makes a business essential, all businesses should be essential, and that’s the point I am trying to make behind this whole process. And how we’re in the set of metrics and the phases. I was on, Nick Cavuto a couple of hours ago, deBlasio, said earlier today, he said, the day is June 15th. Well, what if it’s not? What if it’s now, he says it’s June 30th or July 15th.
If they gave us a definite date, and this is talking to hundreds of business owners and everybody wants to work and their employees also, if they gave us a date, say the 1st or 2nd or a definite date, not a possible date, then we can plan accordingly. Nobody can live a life with a can be or a maybe.
If you want to go according to data, Cuomo literally said the other day, whenever I listen to him, he’s on so often, he said. ‘All the original models were wrong, everyone of them,’ he said it exactly like that, every one of them. Every one of them was wrong.
So now he wants us to trust him again. After we agreed to shut down and shelter in place, which I was a firm believer of that, I didn’t leave my house. I live alone, I didn’t leave for two weeks. I was scared myself, but as the process went on, we’re saying, okay, okay, okay, okay.
Where is this exit strategy? I don’t think they planned the exit strategy. If all of models were wrong, then why should we… Where’s your credibility to listen to you now? So this is, some of these people are a little upset about this. It’s not a political appeal, its a part of our businesses.
We lost our livelihoods and the kicker is, not only do we not have any income unless you’re getting unemployment. We’re going to have to pay back all the bills that we incurred over this timeframe. If you tell me, ‘You know what, close down for a period of time, two weeks,’ I’ll eat it, but now you say, closed down for three months.
I have to pay all that money back. Besides not making profits and paying my employees, I’m making paychecks and I’m responsible to payroll. That doesn’t make any sense. Anybody who thinks that’s logical, then there’s a problem. If you say to us, ‘Close it down and we’ll pay your bills after a period of time.’ Okay. No problem, we’ll stay home as long as you want.
You know, but it’s insane. You have to trust us as business owners. A business owner just doesn’t open up a business and It’s just like that, we have to save money. We have to take out loans sometimes 3,4,5, sometimes 10, 15-20 thousand, we have to borrow from family members. It’s not that easy to do. If it was easy everybody would do it, and they would not work a nine to five job and get a steady paycheck.
We wanted the American dream, I’ve been in business for 25 years. This is an American dream, and then you just take it away like that. That’s not America. We know what the protocols are, If they don’t, then they’re living in a bubble, okay?
We know what has to get done. In my business, we did what safety measures, what needed to be taken and lowered when I was in operation, so on and so forth, and everybody knows that, it’s all over all over the news, obviously, so, so we just don’t understand why. That’s about it for that part as to why I’m doing it.
You know my, legal representation. they’re very big on this, my attorneys, Mark Fonte and Louis Gelormino. You know, if it wasn’t for them, this wouldn’t be possible cause they were willing to fight for any small business in New York city. Mostly Staten Island, but they’ll do the rest of the city, I believe they said.
Any fines that they incurred during the process, they would still reopen because we believe this is unconstitutional. I’m not going to get into the legal aspects, of course, because I’m not a legal expert. But,I call my team the “Beast” team. A lot of political, very, very powerful, very smart and intelligent men, including Johnny Tobacco from Liquid Lunch is on the news, he’s on TV, and Mr. Calabresi and we’re all on the same page. Just talking to people. It’s a daily thing. We’re doing more now, than if we were working.
Now if the officials were able to show up yesterday. Joe Borelli, Nicole Malliotakis, and a few other, lower politicians, working their way up through the ranks that’s sending a statement, I believe, and they believe in what’s going on, especially Staten Island. We met the seven metrics, so why are we considered the same region as the other four boroughs?
It’s not like we’re connected. You know how if you crossed the line on one side of the street, then we’re on the other side of the streets, you’re in another borough.
We’re separate. It’s surrounded by water.
It’s just frustrating but we’re not stopping the fight. We’re going to continue. My legal team, we’re going through this and if it still falls through, I’m going back out on Monday on Cavuto and we’re gonna do an exclusive on what our plan of action is going to be moving forward.
Staten Islander Interviewer: Okay. and that’s a radio show? Nick Cavuto you said.
Bobby Catone: Cavuto, he has a couple shows on Fox he has Your World and others.
It’s a serious thing. You know you dont realise that the trickle down effect is having. There are a lot of things going on in households, everybody doesn’t live with a white picket fence.
There’s some serious starvation going on here, there’s people who have businesses for 20-25 years. And they are now waiting on food pantry lines. That’s crazy. It doesn’t make sense. This is America and you know, it’s great that we have the food pantries and the donations, but it doesn’t make sense. You know. They’re laying off people in hospitals. I know people in the Covid department in New York’s Staten Island hospitals, and they’re laying off people.
Hospitals are going to go bankrupt. My personal primary doctor, he works in the nursing homes also. He’s a director of nursing homes and he’s a speaker, a well renowned speaker around the area.
He said, this is not about the virus anymore, there’s going to be more deaths from the situation than because of the coronavirus, you know, between depression and alcohol, suicides and drug overdoses and cancer patients not going to a hospital to get proper treatments. At the end of the day, fear. Fear is a very intense way to shut down society because people listen to fear.
Cuomo did say a few weeks ago, in the corona response. He said he had two fears. One, that 19 million New Yorkers are not going to listen to me, and that health care workers are not going to go to work, and he had a valid point. And we all stepped up to the plate. We stepped up as New Yorkers, as citizens and we knew what we were supposed to do, but give us back our lives.
What makes the stage of one person different from the stage of another person or a third person, when is it going to be? August? There’s no answer. It’s based on a system nobody’s ever used before. They are ready to tell you every law is not correct, so now it’s correct because they say so.
It’s mind blowing. Mind boggling. There are a lot of people that are against reopening businesses, those are the ones that are already working. So they don’t know what it’s like. I know I have a family and they don’t know what it’s like to just sit here and tell my kids I have no way to feed you guys today. I’m going to go to a food pantry or maybe ask somebody for food. In America that doesn’t make sense.
Staten Islander Interviewer: No. I know a lot of people in my family, they are still working, but most of them do understand that this is not right. But, I know people who are in the healthcare field and stuff and they’re like, ‘Oh no, it was definitely necessary and it’s got to continue.’ And it’s like, they’re saying, it’s because they’re like, ‘Oh, New York was so bad.’ And this person is not actually in New York anymore.
Bobby Catone: First of all I live in Staten Island and I personally know nurses who got laid off.
I know the lady, who’s the head of the Covid department, she says there’s nothing, no incoming patients to the hospital for the hospital to make money. There’s no surgery, there’s no surgeons, there’s no anesthesiologist, there’s no assistants, there’s no interns, there’s no billing, there’s nothing. They’re going bankrupt. Everyone is going bankrupt.
In the political world of Cuomo and deBlasio, it’s like, they don’t get it because they don’t live the life that we live. They have a luxurious life and can afford to go everywhere with security. When deBlasio goes on TV and says, I’ve talked to business owners and they agreed that we should keep the businesses shut, there’s not one business owner that would agree to that. He keeps saying that, but I know I speak to them. I go out there and I speak to people.
Do you mind if I keep you broke and take what you earned and worked for for 20 years? The lies out the mouth, they just keep coming out to keep people. What’s going to happen, and this is just my point of view of what’s going to happen. I just see it happening, within the next week there is going to be thousands of businesses opening, literally thousands. They’re not going to be able to control that so they should just say we trust you. Your officials will trust you to do the right thing.
In a jewelry store, a girl was crying on TV, why can’t I let one person in at a time, I don’t have a supermarket or a big box store. I don’t need to be shut down, I don’t need to be shut down, why am I shut down? Why is the dry cleaner shut down, how many people need to get dry cleaning. But the deli that sells cigarettes and lotto tickets, just because they have soda, they can stay open orbecause they have some bread there.
Or a liquor store. Again, getting back to my doctor he he said the liquor stores actually lower your immune system. So the more they drink the more vulnerable they become and once they do, if they do get it, it’s going to affect them more.
Bobby Catone: So, by staying in first of all your immune system is based around being around germs, you know, if you have a baby the doctor tells you, bring the family around, take it outside. Let it get used to the environment, let the immune system build up. A body in motion has to stay in motion. So if you exercise, you’re always going to be in shape.If you don’t exercise you’re going to get fat. This isn’t rocket science, you know? So the thing with staying in isolation, you’re preventing your natural immunity from working. So thousands of people, tens of thousands, millions who knows are afraid to go out, out of fear.
Once they do go out and maybe bumps into someone or talks to someone, [they’re going to be exposed to it]. I’m not a doctor, but that’s science. If you did go out and your body was healthy or your immune system was strong, you have a better chance to fight that off. So unfortunately, viruses, again, this one is a lot more deadly than most, but they don’t go away. It’s never going to go away,
Actually, they don’t know that, nobody knows that. One day they say it’ll be here next season and then another day they say it’s not going to be here next season, or it could be stronger. They don’t know, they don’t know. But let’s pretend the virus doesn’t go away. What are you going to do, keep people in their homes forever? This is not the flu. There’s a million viruses, not a million, a lot of viruses. There’s a lot of bacteria. There’s a lot of things in the world, you touch a dollar bill. Who knows how many different kinds of bacteria are on it, but our body’s immune to it because we touch it all the time, we’re used to it.
So there’s a lot of medical things. I’m not a doctor, but I’m not going to go on and on about it. But this is about business and small business. This is what we’re fighting.The viruses is a whole different thing, this is not about the virus anymore. This is about the Consitution. If you were to speak to my lawyers or legal experts, this is a constitutional thing.
They’re overstepping their bounds, from what I understand about the legalities you’re allowed to shut down a state or whatever a country or whatever, for a short period of time and then that’s it.
Then at some point, it’s time to get back to the business. So we are going to keep fighting. And there’s a lot of big things that are going to happen next week, but between the five boroughs, not just Staten Island, between a lot of things. Trust us, that’s all I’m saying [to the governor and mayor], trust us.
Plus I spent over $2,000 to get my store with the proper, sanitization and things like that, you know, like plexiglass and sanitizers in the rooms, dispensers, that I didn’t have but it’s the right thing to do. It’s not regulated, I don’t believe, but. that’s proper for my customers to be safe.
By the way, I had an incredible turnout yesterday We had an incredible turnout yesterday, between every single news station. So apparently they think it’s important. The local politicians think it’s important. The people that showed up, many business owners. Clients and others.
When I told them I was going to open on Thursday, even though I did minimize my appointment booking, and how many people would come throughout the day, we were booked, like from the minute we opened, when I say booked, not people on top of each other, but I gave it about 40%, and we were booked throughout the whole day with no more than four people coming in and out.
Why can’t we have a few people coming into our business? We have, what’s the word they like to use? Filtration or whatever or ventilation. So I really, it’s very frustrating to have a business for 25 years, actually, it’s our 25 years anniversary. And It’s taken away from you, which was okay in the beginning, to keep everybody safe, but we’re out three months without a guaranteed exit strategy that we’ll say we can’t wait, that’s not how the World operates, that’s a general statement that’s not how things operate.
Staten Islander Interviewer: And like the supermarkets and all of [those types of businesses], they’re actually determining the number of people in their stores themselves. So like home Depot has a limit of 20 or they might have 10 or whatever it is. You know what I mean? So their, just…
Bobby Catone: They dont really have systems because I’ve been to the stores and they let I dont know how many, have you been to Home Depot lately? I’ve been there about 5 times and there’s nothing that they do except to sanitize my hands.
Staten Islander Interviewer: I went to home Depot last week, and there, they didn’t make us wait outside or anything. There was no line.
Bobby Catone: It was nice that there was forty people in there. It was a regular day.
Staten Islander Interviewer: Yeah, there were a lot of people in there.
Bobby Catone: Let’s say they have a minimum of like 150 people . That’s a very slow day. I might have 100 in an entire day without anybody on top of anybody in a separate room going in and out with a sanitizing unit after each use, but when you go in Home Depot, who’s watching who’s touching this or who’s touching that. You have to put your name on the credit card or type in your thing on the credit card machine.
You got to touch it and it’s not clean. How about this? Nobody even thinks about this, Home Depot now when you go to most of them, they are all self scanners. You have to pick up the gun. Right the orange gun scanner And scan your items. You’re going to tell me that they’ll be cleaning that gun after each use?
Staten Islander Interviewer: They don’t
Bobby Catone: yeah. Even my cat said no, you hear him?
Staten Islander Interviewer: So obviously now, the health department shut you down. So that’s pretty much it until you guys take legal action or do something else?
Bobby Catone: The mayor
Staten Islander Interviewer: Have you been like exploring different options? Like how you could reopen legally? I spoke to your attorneys and they said that they’re investigating your options. So would that kind of be accurate as far as when you’re planning to reopen?
Bobby Catone: Yep thats 100% accurate.
Staten Islander Interviewer: I mean, you wanted to reopen the other day, but…
Bobby Catone: I would open up today, but we’re actually going to have a meeting today and see what the future holds. We have a couple of plans up our sleeves, we’re not just, it’s not about me. By doing this, by opening this way it brings attention and obviously it doesn’t help me.
Staten Islander Interviewer: Right.
Bobby Catone: I’m doing this to get the word out to all small businesses. People think, you know, you get the haters. Why is tanning essential? This is a business. What makes any business essential? I ask everybody that, all the negative people, I said, please tell me what makes a business essential? Nobody answers. One girl goes, I’m a nurse.
Okay. So you walk into a place with Covid patients everyday. Correct? Yeah. So why is it safer for you to go to be around Covid and come outside to society and who knows what you have, but you can’t come into any of our small businesses, who are not walking into 100% guaranteed Covid facilities. That’s the craziest scenario right now that does not make sense.
Let’s say that the lady I know she works in the Covid unit, she’s the head of nursing, whatever is the technical term. She’s knowingly walking into a Covid environment. If you choose to come to my business or my neighbor’s business, you’re not walking into a guaranteed Covid environment.
Staten Islander Interviewer: Right, right.
Bobby Catone: At all
Staten Islander Interviewer: There was a place in Belmawr New Jersey, Atilis gym. So, the [state health department] went in, they broke into his shop and changed the locks on his doors.
Bobby Catone: They changed his locks; they didn’t padlock it because he was on Tucker and they said, because they know he would just cut the locks off.
Staten Islander Interviewer: Right they changed the locks themselves.
Bobby Catone: You notice what they did there. They’re able to fight, but they didn’t threaten to ever arrest him, ever. They came to me and said, if you stay open and we issue you a summons, if you continue to stay open, we’re going to arrest you.
Staten Islander Interviewer: But that would have been, from what you said, that would have been like an acceptable risk, whereas them actually taking away your business’s licenses.
Bobby Catone: Yes. I took off my watch. I took off my watch. I gave it to my manager. I said, may I use the bathroom please? Because I’m probably going to be here for a little bit. I went to the bathroom, I called my sister. I said I’m being locked up, can you give my number to my attorneys. I went out there. By the time I got out there, the chief of Staten Island, let me tell you something. These guys were the most respectful class act that I’ve seen, and not like their portrayed on television. Like that guy that just killed this other guy, they were classy.
They were very nice to meet very respectful. I said, all right, let’s go. Then he got a phone call, and he said that’s the mayor’s office. He said, you are not going to get arrested. We’re going to take you down and the health department’s going to take [your] license away. I guess maybe they figured he doesn’t mind being arrested. That plan didn’t work, so again, that’s just hearsay. I don’t know, but that’s what it looks like.
What I said though, to one of the reporters i said to him. I said, isn’t it weird that we’re just trying to put food on our tables? When we do sales, we build up taxes, which makes the city run again. We’re trying to put on our tables. And our employees put food on their tables.
We don’t want to live with unemployment, like some of these people that are happy to stay home. Our employees are saying that I don’t care about that. I want to get back to work. So it’s not what they’re saying out there. People are going to have, a lot of people are going to want to stay home, yeah some are that aren’t happy with their work environment, but my staff is happy to come down. They were all out there supporting us yesterday. Isn’t weird now they’re letting prisoners out of jail.
For ridiculous reasons, like they’re afraid to get COVID and this and that, but meanwhile, they’re in an enclosed environment a controlled environment. So they’re willing to twist on that side
So not only will we take your livelihood away. We’re going to make you pay more money because you’re trying to earn a living. This is really backwards. That’s is really backward.
If you’d never heard about this country, you came to this country. You saw what was on and you’d go, wait a second, they’re going to arrest Bobby for opening up a business, but then isn’t that guy a registered pedophile and they let him out of jail, and then he’s back in jail and back out again, makes no sense.
Staten Islander Interviewer: Yeah I was surprised that, didnt make any sense. I read that this morning I was…
Bobby Catone: You’ve got to remember too, as business owners. We didn’t just wake up to money one day, we had to, I don’t know if I mentioned this already because I talked to so many people. We have to borrow the money somehow. We’re not wealthy and unless you’re, you know, you have a wealthy father or something like that and you’re lucky. No, l didn’t have any money.
I opened up my business with zero money, which most business owners do, they borrow it from the bank, from the family, maybe a little life savings. Some of these thing aren’t cheap, some of them are $50,000, it’s not a cheap business to open. There’s other businesses you could open a lot cheaper than one tanning salon.
And I’m not even getting into the health benefits, and the underlying issue, of what is a UV light do. A it Kills, as you see, it’s all over the news that it kills coronavirus on contact surface, the coronavirus, bacteria, which they clean the subways and the buses, now as we speak at night time.
The UV light produces vitamin D, what does vitamin D do? It boosts your immune system. What does that help the immune system do? It fights off bacteria, viruses, sicknesses, Depression in capital letters, skin disorders.
So there’s a lot of benefits. I’m probably the only business that helps you boost your immune system besides the gym, which they’re all closed. Exercise is helpful. In the right way. They can figure it out and tell each gym how to do it the proper way, trust people, but you understand what i’m saying?
Staten Islander Interviewer: Yeah
Bobby Catone: If they would have told us, you know, what they never do? They never tell you while your home do this, do this, maybe that’ll help build up your lung capacity or your heart rate. Do some exercising, take some vitamin D three pills. Change your diet, jog around the block. They don’t tell you anything how to help yourself.
They just worried [about your business]. I lost almost 12 pounds myself. I bought a treadmill, I never even thought about a treadmill but it did the job. Which I probably wouldn’t have done beforehand.
Staten Islander Interviewer: Right. I mean alot of people
Bobby Catone: I mean I was afraid once, you never know, I’m going to be 57years old, so you never know. I’m healthy. I go to the doctor every three months. But you never know if there’s something underlying. We were told to be lungs, lungs, lungs, it’s the lungs. So I said, you know what, let me do more cardio because I’m not sure, maybe it’ll be good for my lungs. I don’t know. I go to the doctor to get my blood work, but you never know.
Staten Islander Interviewer: Yeah.
Bobby Catone: My friend’s wife, she was tired for about a week and he was getting mad at her, asking why is she sleeping, but she went to the doctor, she had Stage IV cancer, so you never know. What somebody has until you actually find it.
Staten Islander Interviewer: Right?
Bobby Catone: That’s the shame with cancer too. Most times a lot of people don’t realize they have it until it’s too late, so that’s why they’re afraid now, nobody’s going to the doctor. I could tell you stories forever I don’t want to keep you.
Staten Islander Interviewer: So when you were going to open up yesterday. Did the patrons actually, was everybody outside at the rally before you opened and how many patrons were like, there, ready to come into your store, which obviously they didn’t get to come in.
Bobby Catone: My actual customers?
Staten Islander Interviewer: Yeah.
Bobby Catone: Like i said earlier first of all it wasnt really a rally, there was no chanting or anything like that. But just a few people said a few things, there was a Memorial for the people that passed away, you know, a minute of silence and so forth. People said what they had to say, I said what I had to say. I was nervous. I never spoke to that many people, but it is what it is.
And it was just, those small business coming to support, most of it was small businesses or my clients, but as far as actual patrons, yeah, there were a lot there, but not scheduled to actually use the services. There’s only, there was only four scheduled at that time. We still didn’t get a chance to use it, but we had a full book throughout the day.
So we had about a hundred people scheduled to tan that day, which we normally could go up to about 360 on a best case scenario.
Staten Islander Interviewer: Okay. and you were saying something about next week, is there something that you’re aware of that’s planned for next week, or you just think that all of the businesses are really starting to get tired of this and they’re just going to kind of come out and do what you did?
Bobby Catone: I’m hearing through the grapevine, certain businesses that are talking together, I listen. That’s not my business, what they do, but it’s what I hear through the grapevine. I’m not, it’s hearsay, but from what I’m hearing, it’s what they say.
Staten Islander Interviewer: Cause I know in Jersey, which had similar numbers I guess to Staten Island or whatever it is, Jersey already opened, everything has to have 25% capacity. Because I know people who have small businesses out in Jersey and like, Oh yeah, I opened like Tuesday.
Bobby Catone: You want me to give you a good example of Jersey, listen to this craziness. Point Pleasant beach. I have a friend that lives in Point Pleasant and it came on, I forget where it is i had seen it or heard it.
Guy owns a souvenir shop on the boardwalk. One of those typical places. Not allowed to open up your stores on the boardwalk. She says, I could go two blocks away and buy the same items I sell, such as sun blocks you know whatever, the same beach items in the 99 cent store, two blocks away, and that’s okay, but I can’t open here. Does that makes any sense? It doesn’t make any sense, It’s insane. Listen we all know there’s alot of under ground… people are cutting hair. Okay. We know people are cutting hair, whether it’s out of the house, whether it’s out of the shop. They’re doing it calmly. I can’t take tanning beds home & tan people. This is America, this is insane, it’s crazy.
Staten Islander Interviewer: It is.
Bobby Catone: Its crazy, my sister’s in South Carolina she calls us from the beach. She says, oh it’s nice on the beach theres with a million people here
Staten Islander Interviewer: And I heard that they weren’t allowing people into the water in New Jersey, but the beaches were open and the board walk was open. He didn’t open the beaches at all.
Bobby Catone: deBlasio, or as they say in Staten Island de Bozo, said that if you go in the water, I watched him in the interview, If you go in the water we will come take you out,
Staten Islander Interviewer: Which is insane
Bobby Catone: We will come take you out.
Staten Islander Interviewer: Will they be wearing a mask when they come take them out?
Bobby Catone: So what are the cops going to do he’s going to walk through the water in his shoes, his uniform, his gun and say excuse me sir come out. I’ll say come and get me. I’ll stay here all day.
Staten Islander Interviewer: Thats insane
Bobby Catone: What is the water doing, the water is actually good. Not only is the salt and everything, nobody is on top of anybody in the water, and I go to the beach a lot. I love the beach, even though I own tanning salons I don’t even use my own facilities during the summer. I go to the beach It’s what I like to do I’ll go to the beach this Sunday if the weather permits for the first time nobody’s sitting on top of eachother in sand, 6ft is a lot of space when you’re on the sand.
Staten Islander Interviewer: No everybody pretty much puts themselves that far apart any way.
Bobby Catone: If someone came that close to you on a public or private beach, you would ask them to move, “Excuse me, you’re in my space.”
Staten Islander Interviewer: Yeah exactly, definitely. I would.
Bobby Catone: They have these little things I watch on videos or whatever you call it, those things a girl goes sits on other people’s towels on a beach and you kind of see the reactions or sits very close to them and they’re the only ones on the beach or another example you’re on a bus there’s only one person on the bus and you go sit right next to them. It’s a little weird.
Staten Islander Interviewer: Yeah.
Bobby Catone: No, you’re not going to sit right next to that person. When you go to a public place like that, the normal thing to do isn’t to sit next to somebody. You’re going to get your private area for yourself and set camp down. They’re not trusting people. They’re are treating us like we have no brains.
Staten Islander Interviewer: Like children
Bobby Catone: I personally think that deBlasio [is doing this] because it’s his last term and he wants to go out with a bang, and he got abused during the presidency. No one voted for him in the Iowa thing over there, wherever he was running for president, and he was maybe a little embarrassed as far as, Cuomo i dont know what, what he’s thinking, he’s the last person after, what he did to the nursing homes. It does not makes sense.
Bobby catone: Like seriously, If I didn’t have my businesses here, I’m locked down. I’d get the heck out of here. I’d bring my business down where my sister is and make twice as much profit.
Staten Islander Interviewer: Yeah.
Bobby Catone: And be in the sun all year round and get my vitamin D right there, I’m not kidding
Bobby Catone: Vitamin D is no joke. In the winter time up here I’m vitamin D deficient. Why do you think viruses and flu are so easily spreadable in the winter, people don’t have the right measures to fight it off, their immune systems are too low. Even though, biologically and scientifically, they, spread better in the cold weather than in the warm weather. But also, having a weaker immune system means, Oh, I got a double whammy.
You know, so as the virus spreads, it gets weaker. What’s the term, replicable? It’s less replicable I believe, that’s the correct term.
Staten Islander Interviewer: It automatically mutates and becomes, usually becomes weaker. So another question is now, it looked like on the videos that we had seen, that you basically, you opened up your doors, you walked in the store and police followed you in, so you didn’t even get to open it. Is that accurate?
Bobby Catone: No they followed us in, Joe Borelli, our Councilman for the city, he was the first customer, to prove a point And as soon as he handed me the money, before I even got to the register, they told me if you plan on remaining open, we’re going to have to issue you a summons for violation with the giudelines, whatever the technical terms were. Do you plan on staying open? I said, yes. I’m not here to close, I’m here to open, that’s why all these people are here. They said, ‘Sorry, I’m going to have to issue you a summons,’ very politely, very respectful. You know, they weren’t rushing anybody. They were just doing what they were supposed to do.
You know, because the day before when I was there cleaning, I was getting ready, 2 cops had come to the door and said, you know we just came to see how you’re making out, are you opening tomorrow? I said yeah.
I said everything’s going to be peaceful. I don’t know who’s going to show up. Might be one person, 10 people, 20 people. I don’t know. I hope there’s a thousand people here, but we’re here to support small business and we’re going to see what happens.
And they were nice, they left, we talked small talk for a few minutes and the same thing with the policemen that were there the next day.
[Then when we opened, they said], well now we’re going to have to arrest him if he continues to stay open. Which was an option that we were thinking might happen. We kind of figured it might happen, but we didn’t think it would happen because it’s a little excessive.
And then when I said, Okay, then the Mayor’s office calls and says tell him we’re gonna shut him down and take away his health department license.
Staten Islander Interviewer: Right.
Bobby Catone: They strong armed me. It’s almost like, I dont know how to word this, it’s kind of like you’re not getting over on us type of thing, because we say you can do this, you can’t do this.
But your rules don’t work. We followed your rules. ‘You’ve got to follow our rules.’ Your rules didn’t work. We’re following the rules. We’re just open, who’s to say we can’t open? We just want to know why are we not essential? It’s not essential to feed somebody who has a family of five, with an infant.
They can’t afford Enfamil, they had got to go on food stamps. Really? Business owners and most people don’t want help. Anybody who can, [mostly] they want to work. There’s some people who will live off food stamps.
Staten Islander Interviewer: No. And I know something else that was very strange that I don’t think I’ve ever experienced in my lifetime. I don’t know if you’ve ever experienced in your lifetime, is that the food bank that they run at Holy Family was empty a couple of weeks back. I think it was like two or three weeks ago.
Bobby Catone: Empty with people or empty with food.
Staten Islander Interviewer: They were empty with food. They had no food. They had to do immediate emergency food drives. They got the word out in all the papers and stuff.
Bobby Catone: That’s how many people were getting food you see.
Staten Islander Interviewer: Yeah. There was none left because so many people
Bobby Catone:There were starving people.
Staten Islander Interviewer: Like the way they did it was they had to call and make an appointment and the lady would drive down the street, because she lived, the lady who was the secretary lived down the street and she would have to drive to the church and go and meet the person there and give them the food. And even with that whole thing where, it wasn’t like it was a line around the parking lot or anything. It was special appointments, and they still ran out of food and they had to have 2 food drives in a row.
Bobby Catone: I dont have the words for when i hear a thing like that. I cant even put that into thought, in words. You said Holy Family in Staten Island?
Staten Islander Interviewer: Holy family. Yeah. The one over here on, over on in Westerleigh, the one on Watchogue Road. That was the one that had [that situation]. I didn’t even know that they had a food pantry until I had read about it. Because like a lot of the food pantries are closed. I know that, I think it’s St Charles or something, the one that’s run by the Mount Loretto place, they’ve been shut down. Just shut down so they are not serving anybody.
Bobby Catone: There’s no food for these people
Staten Islander Interviewer: No food for those people.
Bobby Catone: They’re trying to send a trailer out here with this. Meanwhile, they are joking around on TV, these two bozos, all day long to see who could get more air time, who could get their haircut better, who could get to the gym better, who could work out better. Insane. How about this? I even said, how come none of these officials said, I’m going to lead. I’m going to be a captain of the ship and go down with the ship. And donate my pay check until this is all over with. So until this is all over with donate to the local food pantry. Not only did they not do that, but Cuomo got a raise.
Staten Islander Interviewer: Yeah, that’s what I heard. I heard that too and so when you had, you said Joe Borelli was the first person, he was your first customer. Was he alone in the store or were there other patrons too? And was everybody practicing social distancing.?
Bobby Catone: No actual patrons, just him, my legal team, Mark Fonte and Louis Gelormino and Joe Borelli, and the police, I dont even remember how many there were.
But everything was peaceful. There was no problems. It was not political, wasn’t a Trump rally or anything like that. It was just small businesses at the front of my store. One of the customers, donated a sign, Nick Manfredi donated a sign, all businesses are essential. He didn’t want his name on it or anything like that. He just said, I believe in you.
What’s going on is they’re affected too. You know, even though they make a lot of money. It’s still a small business, right? Just because he has a lot of money doesn’t mean he has a small overhead I mean, he has a huge overhead.
Staten Islander Interviewer: Yeah, I know in New Jersey, auto dealers are considered nonessential. So I think they’re not essential here on Staten Island too.
Bobby Catone: In Jersey now. They opened up the showrooms last Monday a week and half ago. What day is today Friday?
Staten Islander Interviewer: Yeah. But are the ones still closed on Staten Island?
Bobby Catone: I dont know about Staten Island but I have a manager friend who works at Subaru and Chevy in New Jersey and he just opened up a week and a half ago or something like that, not too long ago. Before that, they just had the service department open, they didn’t shut down the service department.
Bobby Catone: Okay. How about this? Staten Island and Manhattan are the two best boroughs out of the five with what’s going on with the virus. In other words there are more cases or deaths or whatever you want to call it. In the story of the virus, you would think that Manhattan was the worst but It’s not.
Staten Islander Interviewer: Was it the Bronx that was the worst, or was it? Was it one of..
Bobby Catone: Bronx, Brooklyn and Queens they were the worst. You can just Google that. My friend sent it to me last week. She’s like, before you start opening make sure you know your facts.
Staten Islander Interviewer: And another question is, why did you choose to announce your opening rather than doing, like what you were saying about how the hair salons were doing everything underground?
Bobby Catone: Because It’s not about me making money. They’re doing it to make money.
Is that how you want to live? That’s not how I want to live.
Staten Islander Interviewer: No.
Bobby Catone: Could I have done it? Yeah, but I wouldn’t make any money. And then all we need is one person. To rat you out
Staten Islander Interviewer: Yeah.
Bobby Catone: And then you get a fine, how are you gonna pay that fine?
Bobby Catone: That’s why nobody’s open, they didnt’t want to pay a fine, well the real reason why nobody’s opening is because of what happened to me. They were afraid their liquor license will get taken away plus they would have to get that back and how much it would cost. I didn’t think they would do that to me because I don’t have a big license.
Like I have an operating license, but it’s a health department license, so they kind of played with it. I didn’t realise they could do that and I can’t open without a health department license so it’s like you’re being punished for trying. The good guys are being treated like the bad guys and bad guys are being treated like the good guys, right? It’s really pretty. It’s a really, crazy.
Bobby Catone: I have a couple of dollars in the bank. Okay. I could live for a period of time, but that’s me. But why do I have to use my savings that I saved for my retirement in hopefully 10 years and now I don’t have my retirement because I was told I had to do this and do this and this when the rules had been changing and we did what we were supposed to do.
And then they’re changing all the rules, and all this one day Fauci will the masks don’t do anything, the next day the CSC will say you dont get COVID 19, you dont get it from touching things. Now, and I don’t know if you heard that, that was two weeks ago.
Staten Islander Interviewer: Yeah they said that.
Bobby Catone: So the whole gloves thing, the gloves just dont make any sense to me because even if you did get Covid from touching things, whether you have gloves on or not, you’re still touching something. That’s how crazy. When you see people driving with gloves on, masks by themselves, they put so much fear in these people, and unfortunately. Most people are followers and they dont have common sense and then listen. The government believes that you instill fear, and you’ll get what you want. So they instill the fear in the businesses by taking their licenses away. But that’s a little different. That’s a aserious issue. That’s a real issue.
Staten Islander Interviewer: Yes. Yeah,
Bobby Catone: So that where we stand.
Staten Islander Interviewer: So how did your patrons respond to that threat that was made to you, that made you basically have to shut down.
Bobby Catone: Say that again
Staten Islander Interviewer: How did they react to the fact that you were, you know, you went through all this, this trouble to make everything sanitary and all that, and then you got shut down and in that kind of underhanded way.
Bobby Catone: I can’t keep up with the responses. Bobby, we love you, we’re proud of you, standing up for us. Your stores are the cleanest, one girl said, and this is on on my mind right now. She says, Bobby, I’m using the words. When I explained your store, [it’s so clean you can eat off the surfaces]
There was one lady on a Facebooked me, this is a shame what they’re doing. You’re not, there’s no crowds in your store. You’re spotless. You’re following the guidelines. UV lightsare good for us.
I have people texting me from Jersey, because I know a lot of people in Jersey, can I come there? I’m getting really depressed. I don’t feel good. My joints hurt. One guy said to me in front of my store yesterday. When I first got there before everything that happened inside my office. He showed me his arms, told me I have bad eczema, can I get into the [tanning] bed? I can’t wait until your open. I have an appointment at whatever time he said.
But [it was an] overwhelmingly positive response. A couple of people saying they were emotional during, you know, the previous whatever you want you want to call it, the ceremony. Because it’s not ceremony, but you know the things that would be said that they were standing there and they felt proud as a community. When I had to talk in front of the people it was short, I just looked around.
I said, this is what a community does. They come around. And they stand up for what they believe in. It’s not about my business. I said, look at my window right there. There’s four words. “All businesses are essential,” and that’s what it’s about, you know, it wasn’t just some people said, Oh, it’s a publicity stunt and this and that, tanning is not essential, you know, you get the haters.
I could have done underground. I wouldn’t have needed anybody. I could’ve done it. I had a guy who goes, he says, listen, I’ll come three times a week. I’ll give you a hundred dollars. I said, what am i going to do then? If I get a fine or I’ve got to, now when you come in and the other 20 people a day come in, because he said, I’ll give you 20 people a day.
What does that do? My electric bill goes up. I’ve got to get girls there. My air conditioner gpt to go on. No. If you’re doing a haircut, $20, $30, $40, $50 they’re probably getting double what they normally would. They’re making money and they’re not paying taxes on it. That’s one of the things Borelli said by the way. I’m sorry, not Borelli.
Johnny Tobacco said. He says, not only are you closing it, but the city isn’t making any taxes by keeping the businesses closed and that’s what makes the city survive. Small businesses run, the country.
Staten Islander Interviewer: Right?
Bobby Catone: And when this is all done and after all this debt is due who do you think is gonna have to pay for it? We are. They’ve already started. They’re raising the totals 30%, 26% percent that percent. We’re not even at work. we’re not even at work and your raising the tolls? It’s like you’re double whammy-ing us now. Before we even get back to work, you know, that’s going on right through, they’re raising it. I have friends that travel a lot and they’re the saying how am I gonna afford this?
Staten Islander Interviewer: Yeah.
Bobby Catone: [A person I know says] I spend $50 a truck. I spend $2,000 a day for my business to go over the Verrazzano Bridge. Now it’s going to be four? I apologize. It’s New York or New Jersey, that’s increasing. Or is it both?
Staten Islander Interviewer: Oh, I don’t actually know. The only thing I noticed was that in New Jersey, they’re, uh, they tried to follow New York with the cashless tolling and that didn’t work. They’ve got all signs up. You must pay cash now. Obviously their system didn’t work for that. So that’s the only thing I noticed.
Bobby Catone: Oh really
Staten Islander Interviewer: Yeah. If you go on the Turnpike or if you go on the Parkway, signs say ‘You must pay cash.’ ‘Users must pay cash at the toll booths.’ They no longer have the cashless tolling cause obviously they didn’t get a good system. It must not have worked and they weren’t getting the tolls. And they need it. They need that money, you know, to continue to operate it. And they must not have been getting it.
Bobby Catone: They didn’t want to pay somebody to collect the money. They’d rather lose all that money with the cashless system. That didn’t work well.
Staten Islander Interviewer: They thought the cashless system would be perfect. Like it is, it works in New York. I mean, obviously New York hired a different contractor than New Jersey did or New Jersey didn’t apparently didn’t hire a very good one. Because then that’s what I had noticed when I went to to Jersey, because sometimes I go there to go shopping. So it was like, Oh well that must not work. And I’m seeing them everywhere when we go, we went on the turnpike up and down both sides.
Bobby Catone: [Yeah, I never got the $1200 stimulus payment either.]
Staten Islander Interviewer: Oh really? I know other people who haven’t either, and they’re like, you know what’s going on? This doesn’t make any sense
Bobby Catone: Never got my 1200 bucks.
Staten Islander Interviewer: Oh gosh,
Bobby Catone: I have a business, but they say, if you make over a certain amount, you’re not going to get it, but I don’t make over that certain amount. When I give myself, my paycheck I get every week doesn’t equal to what is the maximum. I said I didn’t get anything not even half. I’m like, okay, why my friend who makes a gaziillion dollars a year? He got it. He doesn’t even understand why he got it. He says how’d I get it. I woke up to an email one day that said they are putting $1200 in my account.
Staten Islander Interviewer: Yeah, it doesn’t make sense. I know people who haven’t gotten it yet. It’s really, really strange and it just doesn’t make any sense at all. So is there anything else, that you would like to add, that we haven’t covered already?
Bobby Catone: No actually I gave you a lot of information.
Staten Islander Interviewer: Yeah, it was great. We’re actually, I’m probably gonna publish the interview.
Bobby Catone: At the end of the day trust us, trust us. If your not gonna give us an exact date trust us.
Bobby Catone: [Telling us that something] may cause cancer can do this, is a possibility. That’s not science, it’s not facts and that the problems we have with all these, people going back and forth arguing on Facebook all day. Oh, it “may” this, just you’ve got to read. You don’t just take out that word it’s the most important word in the sentence. deBlasio says, we “can” be open. He picked that word very specifically, we “can” be opened by June 15th. Thats not a guarantee for the businesses.
Staten Islander Interviewer: No
Bobby Catone: Your business can be open on this day, I guarantee it. None of that is happening. Mark my words. If it doesn’t happen. I think by then everybody is going to try and be open anyway, but that’s just my personal opinion, but we’ll see what happens. We’ll see what happens.
As it get warmer the virus is, it’s wearing itself thin as you go along, it doesn’t stay around. It’ll, be around, but it won’t be as big. Because people always get sick unfortunately and God forbid I don’t want anybody to get sick or pass away, you know, for a stupid virus, not a stupid virus but you know, from something that could have been avoided.
But at the end of the day, you can’t pass. You hear all day long. You can’t let the cure be the problem.
Staten Islander Interviewer: Right.
Bobby Catone: So we have to get to work. It’s got to be a balance. You just have to be trustworthy. We noticed. No, there’s nothing more you could possibly do, Staying in and you’ve got to get out, it’s even the doctors have said staying in is going to have a long term effect on people.
Staten Islander Interviewer: Yeah,
Bobby Catone: And that’s no secret either. I’m not a doctor that’s just common sense. I don’t know. I guess a lot of people, don’t have common sense in this world.
Staten Islander Interviewer: Right. Well I definitely appreciate you taking the time to speak with us. And, if you want to check out the newspaper, it’s StatenIslander.org. I’ll have the story.
Bobby Catone: Can you email me the interview, the story or the article whatever you want to call it.
Bobby Catone: I have this lady sending me prayers, you’re doing such a good job, sending me these quotes out of the Bible and stuff. This is a very big subject for some reason.
Staten Islander Interviewer: Yeah,
Bobby Catone: Not, for some reason, even around the world, there’s a lot of people who believe that we shouldn’t be getting open by now. This is a big subject, too many people’s livelihood they got to get back.
Staten Islander Interviewer: Yes, and once we get the article up about the event, I’ll send you an email and then once we do get the interview up, which will probably be a few more days, I’ll send you another email letting you know.
Staten Islander Interviewer: All right. Well, thank you so much.
Bobby Catone: I just want the message out there all business are essential and trust us thats all a very simple statement.
Staten Islander Interviewer: Absolutely. Alright, well thank you so much. And, it was great speaking with you. Have a great day.